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Dorothy Ley Hospice

Memories Bloom on Dad Hill

by Meghan Alexander                                                                                                    
Spring 2008

David Lockhart was 63 years old when he died of brain cancer on March 5, 2007.  Being a lover of the north, he was buried at the cottage on "Dad Hill" among a sea of colourful Forget-Me-Nots.  It was a place where he would go to relax, take in nature and spend time with the family.

"We have a lot of fond memories of that hill," said Sonya, who was married to David for 22 years.  "It got the name Dad Hill because we often reminisced about our two fathers there.  Each spring, we spread additional Forget-Me-Nots on the hill to commemorate their lives.  This year will hold special meaning because we'll also be remembering David."

David was initially diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer) in 2003.  Three years later, after experiencing a seizure, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to his brain.

The family was referred to The Dorothy Ley Hospice through the Community Care Access Centre.  David's sister, Wendy Duncan, who has worked at Durham Hospice for over 10 years, also encouraged the family to make use of DLH's services.

Sonya thought David and their twin sons would benefit from talking to someone about death and dying.  Spiritual Care Coordinator, Nick Ruiter visited David and his family at their home.  During the discussion, David made it very clear that he saw his terminal illness as "a process" - one that he had come to terms with.

"Throughout David's care, the Hospice was very supportive but not intrusive," said Sonya.  "Nick was especially able to connect with our 19 year old twin sons Michael and Andrew."

When David died, the family asked for Nick's help with planning the service. They settled on a non-denominational Celebration of Life ceremony that met the beliefs of the family members and their many friends. Andrew took the lead with Nick and worked with Michael, Sonya, and Wendy. "We had accepted the fact of David's illness and death, and felt that this was an opportunity for us to do another loving thing for David," Sonya explained.  "We wanted our friends and family to celebrate the man himself through anecdotes and understanding some of the things he held dear.  Nick guided the family in developing a true Celebration of Life."

Andrew's keen interest in the environment prompted the family to select a biodegradable urn that could be planted in the soil.  The family agreed that there was no better place for David to be laid to rest than at the cottage among the blooms on Dad Hill.

One of the first family memories of the hill was made one beautiful summer day.  Atop the hill there was an old well.  The family decided to cover the top of the rotting well with cement. Wanting to mark the occasion, each person left their individual marks in the cement.  This particularly appealed to Michael and Andrew, identical twins who were three years old at the time."You can still see our initials in the cement and the boys' little footprints," Sonya recalled fondly. "David and I talked of that day often and it was one of our happiest memories."

Many family members and friends attended the non-denominational ceremony to celebrate David's life.  During her closing remarks, Sonya reassured the congregation that David would be returning to one of his favourite places - the cottage.  Family and friends were encouraged to take a package of Forget-Me-Not seeds and plant them where the blooms would remind them of a loved-one.

"Knowing that David would be returning to the cottage provided closure for a lot people, and the blooms of Forget-Me-Nots symbolize renewal each spring," Sonya explained.

Sonya, a human resources manager and trainer, recently became a volunteer at the Hospice using her Human Resources skills in some people development projects.  As for the boys, Michael is currently pursuing an honours BA in political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and will follow Mom in an HR career, while Andrew is at Trent University in his third year of an honours BA in environmental studies, planning to go on to a Masters degree (but Mom hopes he will be a doctor). 


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